Sunday, September 14, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the US.  Whether it be swimming, hiking, waterfalls, history, or the beauty of the mountains in October when the leaves begin to change colors, there is always something to see and experience in the park, regardless of the season one chooses to visit.  Our Frugal Family Travelers enjoyed the park this summer! In addition to some of the most frequented spots by the park's approx. 9,000,000 visitors a year, we chose to visit some of the less traversed areas as well.   In doing so we discovered some amazing spots that we highly recommend to anyone planning a visit here in the future.

There are 4 visitor centers located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sugarlands, Cades Cove, Clingman's Dome and the Oconoluftee (near Cherokee, NC).  In addition to a visitor's center, Oconoluftee offers the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill which feature historic cabins and building collected from places throughout the Great Smoky Mountains and preserved on site for viewing,  The visitor centers and the rangers who work there are an amazing wealth of knowledge and source for planning  amazing adventures while visiting the park.  Each center sells booklets for $1-$2 which focus on a particular area of interest within the park, such as waterfalls, auto touring, and hiking.  We relied heavily on these booklets and bought everything we needed for less than $10! This was our ONLY expense for all of the adventures you see below. The rangers are also happy to help you with any and all questions. If you tell them what you are interested in seeing or doing, they are happy to point you in a direction to find those adventures.    There is also a free quarterly newspaper published by the National Park Service which contains a calendar with interesting ranger-led activities and demonstrations happening throughout the park. Take advantage of these special program offerings as they will add yet another layer of excitement for your Frugal Family Travelers while visiting the park.

Another "secret" which may be obvious to some to keep these adventures affordable was to picnic nearly every day for lunch.  There are picnic spots located throughout the park and almost every trail-head has a picnic area and restroom.  Many spots also include barbecue pits and more than once we wished we had brought some grub for the grill!

A picture is worth a thousand words.  View the pictures and links posted below to discover some familiar locations in the park and some locations that are "off the beaten path".


This is a loop driving trail with may historic buildings to stop and visit along the way.  The trail can be accessed in Gatlinburg, TN.

Ephraim Bales Place on the "Roaring Fork Trail"

Beautiful Stream Behind Ephraim Bales Place

Another View of the Stream Behind Cabin

Alfred Reagan's Tub Mill on the "Roaring Fork Trail"

Another View of Tub Mill

Flume of Tub Mill

Alfred Reagan Cabin on the "Roaring Fork Trail"


This site with multiple waterfalls is located just minutes from the Sugarlands Visitors Center.  No hiking required--park right in the parking lot and walk just a few steps!

  Place of a Thousand Drips:  
Located on the "Roaring Fork Motor Trail"



This bridge is located near the trailhead for Abram's Falls.  Abram's Falls is a 2.5 mile hike (5 miles round trip) and is touted as a great family hike.  We started out too late in the evening so we chose to hike to the Elijah Oliver cabin from this trailhead.  This 1-mile round trip hike was easy and we all had a good time!


Elijah Oliver's Cabin Located in Cades Cove





 Trail to Hen Wallow Falls
Note: Hen Wallow Falls was a new waterfall to the Family Frugal Travelers.  After locating this waterfall on the waterfall guide provided by the National Park Service, we decided to give it a try!  The trailhead is located about 30-35 minutes from Gatlingburg via Highway 321.  The hike is 2.4 miles one way (4.8 round trip) and was moderate in difficulty.  There were multiple stream crossings like the one below with bridges made from old logs.  This was truly one of the favorite attractions for our younger travelers.  The falls were stunning and truly made the hike worthwhile.  There is a beautiful picnic area with restrooms at the trailhead where we also enjoyed a picnic after our hike.






Trail Behind Sugarlands Visitor Center:  This trail is great for families who do not want to take a strenuous hike with small children.   The trail head is right behind the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  This short .9 mile trail links the town of Gatlinburg to the visitor's center.  This was a great end of the day activity for us.


On the Way to Spruce Flat Falls:
Note: This waterfall is not listed on any park map but is one of the most beautiful hikes! Please note that this is very a strenuous hike with vary narrow paths at times adjacent to steep drop offs.  In order to access the trail for Spruce Flat falls, follow the signs for the Tremont Institute within the National Park. The Institute is located near Townsend, TN.  After parking in the parking lot, look for the sign for Spruce Flat Falls.  Spruce Flat Falls was truly an amazing find because there are few hikers and the area is vitually undistrubed.  Southern Living Magazine has named it the Best Photo Spot in the Smoky Mountains.










Look Rock observation tower is located on the scenic Foothills Parkway.  An easy 1/2 mile hike leads to the observation tower which provides a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of the mountains. The Foothills Parkway is not as busy as other roads in the park, so this is a great place to get away from the crowds and traffic, especially during the summer months or peak fall leaf color viewing times in October. The Parkway is 18 miles long with many scenic pull-offs. Look Rock is at the highest point along the Parkway. The National Park Service maintains a picnic area and a campground at Look Rock.  Look Rock is a great alternative to the more lengthy drive to Clingman's Dove and offers a competing view!





Frugal Family Travelers gives this location four PLUS "waves of fun"!!
    

Tips: 
Pack water, sunscreen, tubes, insect repellent, park guides from the visitor's center!!

Be sure to check the area for letterboxes!!  To discover more about letterboxing Click Here to read the information previously posted on our blog.
  

Useful Links to Help Plan Your Trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

(Be sure to click on all highlighted text within the blog for additional information regarding activities, including websites, special instructions and travel directions!)


Disclaimer:
All content provided on Frugal Family Travelers blog is for informational purposes only. The owners of this blog make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.  The owners of Frugal Family Travelers blog do not share personal information with third-parties and are not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without permission.  As with all travel, operating days, times, costs, etc., should be verified prior to departure.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fall Creek Falls State Park



If you were following our summer adventures through our Facebook posts, you know that Frugal Family Travelers visited outdoor locations throughout  Tennessee and North Carolina.   Today's blog post features an amazing state park worthy of any bucket list!  Truly an outdoor mountain paradise nestled in the mountains just north of Chattanooga, TN,  Fall Creek Falls State Park features beautiful cabins, campsites, a mountain lodge, golf course, boating, biking, horseback riding, hiking paths lined with amazing streams, numerous waterfalls, (one of which features a sliding rock), zip lining and of course the majestic water fall for which the park is named. (Click here to see activity details.)

We arrived in the later part of the afternoon so our first priority was to prepare our our camp site.   Everything we needed for cooking and camping was easily found right in the general store located conveniently on the grounds of the park!  We loved that the campsites were nicely shaded and provided privacy, while at the same time having a community atmosphere.  Our Frugal Family Travelers felt like pioneers while pitching the tent and cooking hot dogs, s'mores and popcorn on an open campfire!

The next day began with a guided hike, led by a park ranger, to the base of Fall Creek Falls.   We learned that the park contains one of the only virgin Hemlock groves in that area.  The hike was strenuous but the breathtaking views, as we made our descent into the canyon, made every step well worth the effort.  Next, we hiked on several trails which led to waterfalls, streams and swinging bridges.   We highly suggest getting a map so you do not miss any of the trails or sites in the park. The greater part of the afternoon was spent at the Cane Creek Falls.  This is one of the most popular areas of the park for day use visitors because of the easy access to the falls and swimming holes.  We enjoyed cooling off in the water here but particularly enjoyed sliding down the natural rock water slide!

Fall Creek Falls State park is great location for those seeking a destination get-away or for those looking for a nice stop along an adventurous mountain vacation.  This is truly a park with recreational and educational activities suitable for visitors of ALL ages!


Frugal Family Travelers gives this location four PLUS "waves of fun"!!
    

Tips: 
Pack water, sunscreen, tubes, and insect repellent!!

Be sure to check the area for letterboxes!!  To discover more about letterboxing Click Here to read the information previously posted on our blog.
  
Note:
Take advantage of the maps and information provided at the ranger station.   Firewood is available for purchase.  They do not allow outside wood to be brought in for burning. 

Directions:
  1. Phone: (423) 881-5298

(Click on ANY Picture to Enlarge)





























(Be sure to click on all highlighted text within the blog for additional information regarding activities, including websites, special instructions and travel directions!)

Disclaimer:
All content provided on Frugal Family Travelers blog is for informational purposes only. The owners of this blog make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.  The owners of Frugal Family Travelers blog do not share personal information with third-parties and are not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without permission.  As with all travel, operating days, times, costs, etc., should be verified prior to departure.